Those guitars you hear chugging into hearing range at the start of “Red Berry Joy Town” heralded the arrival of an act that would point the direction for British guitar music for the next decade. The Wonder Stuff, with their smart-arse guitar pop, bitter lyrics of jilted love and avarice, huge choruses and confrontational relationship with the music press of the era, have never really had the tastemakers falling over themselves to nostalgically massage their reputation in the same way that say The Stone Roses or The Smiths have, despite the fact that The Stuffies arguably laid much of the foundations for what Britpop was later built upon.
At the time of its release in 1988, The Eight Legged Groove Machine, was hailed as an album of spiky pop tunes by a scruffy quartet from the Midlands. Thirty years later and those spikes remain sharp. While songs like “Give, Give, Give me, More, More, More”, “It’s Yer Money” and “Grin” may seem mean spirited, The Eight Legged Groove Machine was released where being mean spirited was a national pastime, and hey, at least The Stuffies were honest about it.
Unlike many guitar pop albums of the 80s and 90s, The Eight Legged Groove Machine doesn’t show its age too badly. It’s obviously post-punk, and the lyrical barbs and cynicism reflects the state of the nation at the time, but it still sounds bright and breezy in terms of its uncluttered production, the guitar work of Malcolm Treece and Miles Hunt is a joy to hear, Martin Gilks drumming is elephantine and the whole thing doesn’t have an ounce of fat on it. The Eight Legged Groove Machine is a lean album, and while the fans of The Wonder Stuff are by and large making our way through middle age, it remains a heady reminder of our reckless youth.
While The Wonder Stuff would go on to record more sophisticated sounding albums, none would sound more vital, or captured the mood of the time like The Eight Legged Groove Machine. It’s a bratty and immature album, but it’s still an absolute blast to listen to, it’s stuffed full of guitar pop gems, and if you heard it at the right time in your life, it can induce warming waves of nostalgia of a time when being a difficult to interview rock quartet was a vocation rather than a career choice.
Closing with the brutal two punch of “Unbearable” (one of the band’s best songs), and the vicious “Poison”, before a reflective acoustic hidden track at odds with the rest of the album seals up on you, The Eight Legged Groove Machine guaranteed a great time every time you listened to it. It still does. The Wonder Stuff may not be an act that has been accepted into the pantheon of great British guitar bands, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to be there. Few acts of the era knew how to entertain in the same way that the Stuffies did, but in their original run they recorded four albums of brilliant guitar pop entertainment, and The Eight Legged Groove Machine saw them hit the ground running with their debut.